The man, in his late 40s, refused to take a breath test and was taken to hospital, where his initial blood alcohol level was 0.2% – about 2.5 times the legal limit. and the equivalent of consuming 10 drinks an hour. Although the man swears up and down that he did not drink anything, the doctors did not believe him.
But researchers at the University of Richmond eventually found that the man was telling the truth. He didn't drink beer or cocktails – instead, there was a yeast in his gut that probably turned carbohydrates into the food he ate into alcohol.
In other words, his body brews beer.
The intestinal fermentation system occurs when the yeast in the gastrointestinal tract causes the body to convert carbohydrates taken through food into alcohol. The process usually takes place in the upper GI tract, which includes the stomach and the first part of the small intestine.
"These patients have exactly the same effects of alcoholism: odor, breathing, drowsiness, gait changing." Fahad Malik, the study's lead author and chief internal medicine specialist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, told CNN. "They will portray themselves as being intoxicated, but the only difference here is that these patients can be treated with antifungal drugs."
Researchers treated him with antifungal drugs
Things were not the same for the man after completing a course of antibiotics to treat a thumb injury. His personality is beginning to change, researchers are writing in the study, and he is experiencing episodes of depression, brain fog, memory loss and aggressive behavior that is not typical of him.
Three years later, after his suspected drink-driving stop, his husband's aunt bought alcohol to record his alcohol levels. She had heard of a case that had been successfully treated by a doctor in Ohio and convinced her nephew to seek treatment there.
His basic laboratory tests turned out to be normal. But doctors found two strains of yeast in his stool: Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, often used in brewing beer, wine making and baking, and other fungus.
The man was successfully treated at an Ohio clinic and told to stick to a strict carbohydrate-free diet, along with some special supplements. But after a few weeks his symptoms started to flare up again. This time, it seems that no treatment is working, despite visits to numerous medical professionals.
At one point, the man became so upset that he fell and experienced bleeding in his brain. He was taken to a neurosurgical center, where he spontaneously recovered after 1
"At this institution, blood alcohol levels range from 50 to 400 mg / dL," the researchers wrote. "Here too, the medical staff refused to believe that he did not drink alcohol, despite his constant refusals."
Finally, the man sought help from an online support group and contacted researchers at the Richmond University who said in the study that they believed that the antibiotics he took years ago alter the gut microbiome and allow fungi to grow in his gastrointestinal tract. Researchers then use antifungal therapies and probiotics to help normalize the bacteria in his gut, a treatment he continues. And except for one relapse that happened after he drank pizza and soda without telling the researchers, it seemed to work.
And he can eat pizza again.
"About 1.5 years later, it remains asymptomatic and resumes. his previous lifestyle, including eating a normal diet while still checking his breath levels sporadically, "the authors wrote in the study.
The condition is rarely diagnosed
There are only a few studies documenting cases of bowel fermentation syndrome and the condition is rarely diagnosed, Malik said, In the past it was even considered a myth.
The bowel fermentation syndrome was described in in 1912 as "embryonic fermentation. of carbohydrates "and was tested in the 1930s The 40s as a contributing factor to vitamin deficiency and irritable bowel syndrome A group of 20 to 30 cases appeared in Japan in the 1970s, with the first cases reported in the United States about 10 years later.
The authors of a study from the University of Richmond recommend that doctors examine the condition, especially when the patient shows elevated blood alcohol levels, despite the denial.
Early signs of bowel fermentation syndrome may include changes in mood, delirium and brain fog, the researchers wrote, even before the patient began to show symptoms of alcohol inbreeding.
The study states that more research is needed on the use of probiotics as a treatment for the condition.
"This is a condition that can be treated with dietary modifications, appropriate antifungal therapy and probably probiotics," the researchers wrote. "The use of probiotics and the transplantation of fecal microbiota could be considered as future studies."
CNN's Sandee LaMotte contributed to this report.